Dr. Merzenich has published more than 150 articles in leading peer-reviewed journals (such as Science and Nature), received numerous awards and prizes (including the Russ Prize, Ipsen Prize, Zülch Prize, Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award and Purkinje Medal), and been granted nearly 100 patents for his work. He and his work have been highlighted in hundreds of books about the brain, learning, rehabilitation, and plasticity.

Ultrasound and autism

A former UCSF medical student, Carolyn Rees, now a doc in rural Idaho, wrote me a very informative letter — and raised several interesting questions — that are definitely worth a little discussion here. Dr. Rees asked: Is there any evidence that ultrasound examination can affect brain development? In fact, that evidence is mixed. Over…

What underlies the documented increase in autism incidence? Results of a new study

Studies from the Center for Disease Control and elsewhere have compellingly documented a rapid increase in the incidence of autism in the United States. WHAT THE HELL IS CAUSING IT? Given the enormous human and societal costs of this malady, few practical scientific questions are more important to we Americans, in our current era. Whether…

Computers go to school

The U.S. Department of Education recently published a report that they prepared for Congress summarizing the gains achieved by children using computer-based training in reading and mathematics, comparing randomly assigned classes of children who did or did not use these tools (“Effectiveness of Reading and Mathematics Software Products: Findings from the First Student Cohort”; Report…

Why we do research

Why do we study autistic or dyslexic or schizophrenic or other subjects, in our scientific experiments? That is a question that was asked, rather impolitely, by “dyslexic in LA”, who challenged the “arrogance” of a perspective that engages such individuals as “scientific guinea pigs”. There are two simple answers to this question. We want to…

The brain and the law, when Bobby goes bad

Each year I deliver a “guest lecture” in a medical ethics course at Stanford. My friend Bill Hurlbut, a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics, is the course director. The issues that I raise in this course were addressed in part by an interesting cover story in the March 11th New York Times Sunday…

Another factor contributing to PTSD onset; the NUMBER of traumatic events

A scientific friend and colleague, Professor Thomas Elbert from Konstanz University in Germany, has had a long interest in applying “simple” treatments to individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSDs). With his wife Maggie and others, he has developed and applied such treatments to war victims, primarily in Africa and Sri Lanka. There, literally millions…

How can the same brain plasticity-based training programs help individuals with cognitive losses arising from normal aging, exposure to IED explosions, or chemotherapy?

Over the years, I have specifically discussed the potential value of intensive brain plasticity-based brain fitness training for individuals with ALL of these (and other, related) personal histories. How in the heck can “one size fit all”? How on earth can the losses in mental faculties stemming from an explosion of little bubbles in the…

Why science can be confusing, just another example

A provocative article in an Issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Columbia researchers (Saxe, Malleret, et al.) described a study in which scientists documented the consequences of blocking neurogenesis (the birthing of new neurons) on maze-learning in mice. Since we already know that the magnitude of neurogenesis in this brain…